May is National Moving Month, which kicks off the busiest time of year for Americans changing residencies. Unfortunately, it also means unlicensed movers and dishonest scammers are waiting to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers.
In 2016, the Better Business Bureau received more than 1.5 million moving-related inquiries from American consumers looking for movers, and also received more than 5,600 complaints against movers in the U.S. Complaints included damaged or missing items, big price increases over originally-quoted estimates, late deliveries and goods being held “hostage” for additional, often disputed, payments.
Anyone can claim to be a mover, so checking a mover’s credentials is not only critical, it is also very simple. Taking precautions on the front end can save you from a nightmare down the road.
The BBB offers the following tips for finding a trustworthy moving company:
- Research the company thoroughly. Go to bbb.org for a moving company’s business profile and read customer reviews. While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must, at minimum, be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. FMCSA assigns a unique motor carrier number that can be verified at protectyourmove.gov. In the state of Texas, all movers and moving related companies must have a license with TxDMV. Make sure you know whether you are dealing directly with a mover or with a broker (middleman) who will refer your job to a mover you don’t know.
- Get at least three written in-home estimates. Not all price quotes online or over the phone are legitimate (or binding), and crooks are not likely to send an estimator to your home in advance. Remember that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic, low-ball offer, which may cost you more in the end.
- Know your rights. Research your rights with either the FMCSA for interstate moves, or with the appropriate state agency for moves just within that state. Interstate movers must give you two booklets detailing your rights, which are also available online. Intrastate movers must give you a copy of TxDOT’s “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move In Texas,” before the contract is signed. If a company threatens to hold your belongings “hostage,” enlist the help of BBB or local law enforcement.
- Consider accepting full-value protection. It may cost more, but it can provide some peace of mind and eliminate headaches after your move. Purchasing full (replacement) value protection from your mover means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made to repair the item or to replace it at its current market value, regardless of age. It’s important to note, for example, that the required minimum coverage of 60 cents per pound would not cover the replacement cost of a flat panel TV if damaged in transit. The cost of full-value protection must be included in the initial estimate you receive for an interstate move. FMCSA also requires interstate movers to offer arbitration to help settle disputed claims.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.